Skip to main content

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Search Royal Holloway

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

BA
  • UCAS code VV41
  • Option 3 years full time
  • Year of entry 2021

The course

If you are fascinated by the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome and keen to develop transferable skills such as critical analysis then this course is for you.

Taught by a variety of internationally recognised experts, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History offers the opportunity to study both the history and the material culture of Greece and Rome in the Classical period (600 BCE to 700 CE). Over three years you will learn about the Classical world from both archaeological and historical and perspectives. Each year you will take core courses that cover both disciplines, looking at both theoretical and practical aspects, and with a compulsory excavation component.

You will build skills and knowledge from day one. In year two, the experience of archaeological method and historical periods will be deepened and widened and you will develop skills in research and concentrate on your individual interests, which will culminate in specialist studies and individual research projects in year three.

There is also the possibility of spending a year abroad, experiencing the profound effect these classical cultures have had on history, culture and politics.

As a student of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History you will be part of our Classics Department, where the quality of research that informs our teaching and a friendly, individual approach which shapes the way we guide our students combine to create an unbeaten academic experience.

Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more

  • Focus on major sites such as Athens and Rome.
  • Combine study of two major disciplines: archaeology and history.
  • Gain experience of interpreting literary, material and visual sources
  • An optional introduction to the languages, Greek and Latin.
  • Excellent skills for a career in heritage or archaeology.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the Greek World in the Classical Period. You will look at the key events in Greek History from 580 to 323 BC and place these in their historical context. You will consider historical problems and critically examine information and accounts set out in the Greek sources as well as in the works of modern historians. You will analyse a range of sources materials, including inscription, historiography and oratory, and develop an awareness of potential bias in these.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the development of Roman politics and society over the extended period of Roman history, from early Rome through to the emergence of the Medieval World. You will look at the chronology and development of Rome, examining key themes in the interpretation of particular periods of Roman history, including the rise and fall of the Republic and the Imperial Monarchy. You will consider the difficulties and methological issues in the interpretation of Roman Historiography and analyse a variety of theoretical approaches used by historians.

  • This is a survey module covering a large and disparate field. No previous knowledge is assumed: it will offer a basic introduction to the principles of classical archaeology and to the archaeological material of ancient Greece. The module will help you to place archaeological objects and contexts alongside literature and philosophy and to gain a more rounded understanding of how the Greeks thought about their world and the physical environment they created for themselves. The main aim of the module is to familiarise you with the material culture of the Greek civilisation from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period. We will examine the principal forms of Greek art and architecture, together with their stylistic development and social context. We will also consider developments in political organisation and religious practice, as well as evidence for everyday life. The module will introduce basic methodological concepts and theoretical approaches to the study of ancient Greek material culture.

  • This module studies the broad spectrum of archaeological evidence for the Roman world. It will provide an introduction to the main sources of archaeological evidence and key sites across the Roman world. It will offer a taste of how we can use the evidence they provide in the study of history, society and technology during the period c. 200 BC – c. AD 300. It aims to familiarize you with the principal forms and contexts in which art and architecture developed in the Roman world; to introduce you to the uses of material culture in studying history, i.e. to study the art and architecture of Rome as part of its history, social systems, culture, and economy; and to develop critical skills in visual analysis.

Year 2
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the key theoretical and methodological concepts and practices within classical archaeology. You will look at excavation practices, dating techniques, material culture and environmental archaeology, and learn how to interpret different site types and present the past and landscape archaeology. You will gain practical experience in handling primary data and integrating appropriate theoretical models. You will consider the practice of archaeology in its changing theoretical, methodological and professional contexts, and examine how to communicate archaeological data to the wider public.

Year 3
  • Extended Essay (Dissertation)

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of Ancient Greek grammar and syntax and learn elementary vocabulary. You will acquire basic aptitude in reading Ancient Greek text (mostly adapted, with some possible original unadapted basic texts) and consider the relationship between Ancient Greek language and ancient Greek literature and culture.

  • In this module you will further your understanding of Greek grammar and syntax. You will look at Greek prose and/or verse texts, in unadapted original Greek, and learn how to accurately translate passages at sight.


  • In this module you will develop an understanding of a wide range of texts in ancient Greek. You will look at set texts in both prose and verse for translation, and complete grammar and syntax consolidation exercises. You will consider the literary and linguistic features of advanced Greek texts and examine features of grammar, syntax and style.

  • This module can be taken by anyone with less than a B in GCSE Latin.  If students have a B or better in Latin GCSE or equivalent, they should be looking at Intermediate Latin (unless it was a very long time ago). The module sets out to provide a basic training in the Latin language for those with little or no previous experience of Latin. The emphasis is on developing the skill of analysing the structure and meaning of Latin sentences, and on efficient use of the dictionary. Students will also gain familiarity with a range of literary and epigraphic texts in the original Latin.

  • A module intended to build on Beginner’s Latin or O-level/GCSE, extending the students' knowledge of Latin to the point where they are ready to read substantial texts.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of classical Latin and how to interpret Latin texts. You will study two set texts in Latin, one prose and one verse, focussing on translation, context and understanding of grammar. You will gain practice in unprepared translation of texts of similar genres to the prepared texts and will consider selected topics in Latin grammar and syntax.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the framework of Greek literary history from Homer to Heliodorus. You will look at the chronology of major authors and works, and how they fit into larger patterns in the development of Greek culture and political history. You will examine ancient literary texts in translation, considering issues in key genres including epic, lyric, drama, oratory, philosophical writing, historiography, Hellenistic poetry, and the Greek novel.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the history of Roman literature from its beginnings until the end of the Republic. You will look at the work of the major Republican Roman authors Plautus and Terence, Lucretius, Catullus and Cicero. You will consider the issues in the earlier history of Roman literature, including the relationship with Greek models and the question of Roman originality, literature and politics, the use of literature for scientific or philosophical exposition, and the development of narrative style ant attitudes to the Roman Republican past.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the history of Roman literature in the early imperial period. You will look at the work of five authors selected from the Julio-Claudian period, considering the ways in which Roman literature responded to the new political conditions established by the Principate. You will develop your skills in interpretation, analysis and argument as applied both to detailed study of texts (in translation) and to more general issues.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of ancient philosophical ideas and the ways in which philosophical arguments are presented and analysed. You will look at the thought and significance of the principal ancient philosophers, from the Presocratics to Aristotle, and examine sample texts such as Plato's 'Laches' and the treatment of the virtue of courage in Aristotle, 'Nicomachean Ethics' 3.6-9.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how classical Greek and Roman societies developed the concept and role of the individual as part of the wider community. You will look at Greek and Roman education, and how that encouraged the formation of ideal behaviour and identity. You will consider the role of rhetoric, and how competition was encouraged within these societies though literary and dramatic contests, sport, military life, and religion. You will examine how these ideas reflect the role of the individual in the community of the cosmos, and the place in society of 'others', including the lower classes, women, children, the elderly, and slaves.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the Greek World in the Classical Period. You will look at the key events in Greek History from 580 to 323 BC and place these in their historical context. You will consider historical problems and critically examine information and accounts set out in the Greek sources as well as in the works of modern historians. You will analyse a range of sources materials, including inscription, historiography and oratory, and develop an awareness of potential bias in these.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the development of Roman politics and society over the extended period of Roman history, from early Rome through to the emergence of the Medieval World. You will look at the chronology and development of Rome, examining key themes in the interpretation of particular periods of Roman history, including the rise and fall of the Republic and the Imperial Monarchy. You will consider the difficulties and methological issues in the interpretation of Roman Historiography and analyse a variety of theoretical approaches used by historians.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how different classical disciplines interrelate. You will focus on specific academic skills such as avoiding plagiarism, approaching and evaluating a range of ancient evidence, using library and other resources, critically evaluating modern scholarship and theoretical approaches, and relating academic study to employability.

  • This is a survey module covering a large and disparate field. No previous knowledge is assumed: it will offer a basic introduction to the principles of classical archaeology and to the archaeological material of ancient Greece. The module will help you to place archaeological objects and contexts alongside literature and philosophy and to gain a more rounded understanding of how the Greeks thought about their world and the physical environment they created for themselves. The main aim of the module is to familiarise you with the material culture of the Greek civilisation from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period. We will examine the principal forms of Greek art and architecture, together with their stylistic development and social context. We will also consider developments in political organisation and religious practice, as well as evidence for everyday life. The module will introduce basic methodological concepts and theoretical approaches to the study of ancient Greek material culture.

  • This module studies the broad spectrum of archaeological evidence for the Roman world. It will provide an introduction to the main sources of archaeological evidence and key sites across the Roman world. It will offer a taste of how we can use the evidence they provide in the study of history, society and technology during the period c. 200 BC – c. AD 300. It aims to familiarize you with the principal forms and contexts in which art and architecture developed in the Roman world; to introduce you to the uses of material culture in studying history, i.e. to study the art and architecture of Rome as part of its history, social systems, culture, and economy; and to develop critical skills in visual analysis.

Year 2
  • Greek History to 322 BC
  • Greek Historiography
  • Historiography of the Roman World
  • The Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilisation. In this module, we explore the history of the Republic from the foundation of Rome to the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC. Students will examine the social and political pressures that drove Rome to conquer her Mediterranean empire and the consequences of that expansion for the Romans and for the peoples they conquered. The major literary sources will be discussed in translation, together with the evidence of archaeology and material culture which helps us to bring the ancient Romans to life.

  • For almost half a millennium, the Roman empire ruled over the ancient Mediterranean world. This module surveys the golden years of imperial Rome, from the achievement of sole rule by the first emperor Augustus (31 BC - AD 14) to the murder of Commodus (the white-clad emperor from Gladiator) in AD 192. We will analyse the political, social and cultural developments under the emperors of the first and second centuries AD, and reassess their achievements and legacies: Claudius’ invasion of Britain, Nero’s cultured tyranny, the terrible efficiency of Domitian, Trajan the conqueror, and the philosophical Marcus Aurelius.

  • Hellenistic Epic: Apollonius of Rhodes
  • Imperial Greek Poetry: Epic & Epigram
  • Homer (in Greek)
  • The Tragedy of Euripides
  • Greek Dramatic Texts II (Comedy)
  • Herodotus
  • Plato (in Greek)
  • Imperial Greek Literature
  • Greek Historiography (in Greek)
  • Greek Erotic Poetry in Greek
  • Horace
  • Lucretius and Virgil
  • Latin Love Elegy
  • Roman Satire
  • Latin Epic
  • Latin Historiography
  • Catullus and Horace
  • Latin Letters
  • Homer (In Translation)
  • Greek Drama (In Translation)
  • Cinema and Classics
  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Art and Power in Augustan Rome
  • Virgil’s Aeneid : the Empire in the Literary Imagination
  • Gender in Classical Antiquity
  • Greek Law and Lawcourts
  • Augustus: Propaganda and Power
  • The Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire: An Economic and Social history
  • Body and Soul in Ancient Philosophy
  • The Good Life in Ancient Philosophy
  • The Built Environment in Classical Antiquity
  • Greek and Roman Art in Context
  • Understanding Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • Perspectives on Roman Britai
  • Second Year Project
Year 3
  • Understanding Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • Perspectives on Roman Britai
  • City of Rome
  • City of Athens
  • The Archaeology of the Roman Near Eas
  • Gender in Classical Antiquity
  • Greek Law and Lawcourts
  • Augustus
  • The Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire: An Economic and Social history
  • Alexander the Great
  • The City from Augustus to Charlemagne: The Rise and Fall of Civilisation
  • Body and Soul in Ancient Philosophy
  • The Good Life in Ancient Philosophy
  • Further Aspects of Modern Greek Language and Culture
  • Cinema and Classics
  • Roman Oratory
  • Ancient Literary Criticism
  • Roman Drama (In Translation)
  • Greek Lyric, Eros and Social Order
  • Nature and the Supernatural in Latin Literature
  • Greek Literature under the Roman Empire
  • Studying Ancient Myth
  • Culture and Identity from Nero to Hadrian
  • The Roman Novel

The course has a modular structure, whereby students take 12 course units or modules at the rate of four whole units per year. At least 7.5 modules of Ancient History must be taken over the three years of the degree, three modules at year 2 level, and three at year 3 level.

You will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars and tutorials, depending on the subjects studied. Much of your work will be outside class: reading in the library or via e-learning resources (we have a comprehensive e-learning facility, Moodle). You will also be preparing for seminars and lectures, working on essays and undertaking group projects and wide-ranging but guided independent study.

In your final year we provide ongoing support for your dissertation work, which usually includes:

  • Lectures and practical sessions on Dissertation Research Methods e.g. planning your topics, carrying out research, using specialist resources, finding information in print and online, and managing your search results and references. These sessions are run in conjunction with the Library Service and are generally also open to second year students
  • Short departmental writing ‘surgeries’, in which academic staff offer general writing support if you experiencing problems and/or those who have specific queries 

Assessment takes place by a flexible combination of essays, projects, examinations, and tests, various methods being employed depending on the nature of the course unit and the intended learning outcomes. In the third-year, students complete a guided and extended piece of independent research, a 10,000 word dissertation, on a historical subject.

100% say staff have made the subject interesting

Source: National Student Survey, 2019

Top in the UK for career prospects

Source: 'Career after 6 months', Guardian University Guide, 2020

6th in the UK for student satisfaction

Source: Complete University Guide, 2020

Explore Royal Holloway

All undergraduates starting with us in 2020 onwards have the opportunity to take a Placement Year, which will add even more value to your studies.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

They say the two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today